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Rare brew buffs sip suds in Anaheim with "Dr. Bill" Sysak

February 20, 2010 |  6:53 pm

They were pouring 750 of the rarest and most high falutin’ designer beers in the world Saturday at Bravo Restaurant and Night Club in Anaheim, and certified cicerone William “Dr. Bill” Sysak had something to say about the finer points of each of them.

Sysak, a Falstaffian character with a beard and easy smile, was the man of the hour at the private, invitation-only event sponsored by a group called Woodshop 5.0 and attended by more than 250 fussy connoisseurs, aficionados and fans of finely crafted beers from as far away as Denmark. Throughout the 9-hour event, he was urged to savor the scents and flavors of an array of lagers, ales and stouts, including some vintage styles more than 30 years old.

When Sysak commented on a particular beer’s foam, color, aroma, taste or bitterness, guests within earshot took notes on clipboards and laptop computers.

Sysak, the beverage supervisor at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido, had this to say about a style called J & J Rose from Belgium, which sells for $150 a bottle: “Lemon, sharp, acidic at the front palate, ice-tea at the mid-palate and a champagne finish.”

Then there was the potent, zesty dark brew made with coffee beans passed through the digestive systems of rare Indonesian Civet cats. Sysak swirled a sample of that beer in a snifter, eyeballed the viscosity and sediment, took a sip, smiled and said to no one in particular, “Think wine, rich coffee, 80% dark chocolate, bourbon and vanilla.”

Page Reilly, 23, who markets beer for a San Francisco brewery, said, “What Dr. Bill says, goes. If I think a particular beer is bad or good, I like to share some with Dr. Bill to confirm my suspicions.”

Sysak, 47, figures he’s tried more than 30,000 beers over the past 30 years -- not counting the roughly 200 beers he planned to taste at Saturday’s event, which was scheduled to run from noon to 9 p.m.

Extending a glass of a Denmark beer called Olfabrikken Dekadence 2005 over the crowd gathered around Sysak, John Stern, a 28-year-old graduate student at UC San Diego, said, “Hey Dr. Bill, want some?”

“Ahhh,” Sysak said after swirling a mouthful. “Hint of oxidation, rum and winter fruit notes.”

At 3 p.m., after three hours of continual beer tasting, Sysak smiled and said, “I’m holding up pretty well.”

-- Louis Sahagun

Photo: Certified beer guide William “Dr. Bill” Sysak sampling several styles of designer brew during at the 5th Annual Woodshop Tasting at Bravo Restaurant & Night Club in Anaheim. Photo credit: Louis Sahagun / Los Angeles Times